The City of Light’s Most Famous Bookstore

a-moveable-feastA recent vacation took me to Paris, France for the first time and knowing this I had a mission in mind and it wasn’t to visit the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame Cathedral.  It wasn’t even to visit the Louvre, although I did all of those things.  My mission was to pay a visit to one of the most famous bookstores in the world.  Shakespeare and Company was opened in 1951 on Paris’s Left Bank near Notre Dame Cathedral.  The original bookstore opened in 1919 and was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and many other famous writers.  The bookstore has also been featured in some major motion pictures, most notable Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris.  It truly was a thrill to walk in the door of this shop and it was definitely one of the highlights of my recent trip to Europe.

Being a booklover, it would have been easy to spend the better part of a day browsing the shelves and taking a long leisurely look at everything in the shop.  Since I was with a tour group however, my time was limited and I had to choose a book fairly quickly and get that coveted stamp in the front cover of the book.  It was to be the perfect souvenir of my trip!  If you make it to Paris and Shakespeare and Company, you will probably be overwhelmed with choices and little time to decide which can spell disaster.  The worst case scenario is that you run out of time while trying to choose and leave with no souvenir of your visit to what many booklovers consider Paris’ most important landmark.  In order to prevent disaster on your vacation, you may want to consider a paperback copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.  This book is a memoir by Ernest Hemingway about his years in Paris as part of the expatriate writers in the 1920s. The book describes Hemingway’s apprenticeship as a young writer in Europe (especially in Paris) while married to his first wife. Some of the people featured in the book include Aleister Crowley, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, Hilaire Belloc, Pascin, John Dos Passos, Wyndham Lewis, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein.  Another excellent choice would be Down and Out in Paris and London.  This memoir by George Orwell (a particular favorite of The Booklover) was published in 1933.  The first part of Orwell’s account tells about living on the breadline in Paris and the experience of casual labour in restaurant kitchens. The second part is a travelogue of life on the road in and around London from the tramp’s perspective, with descriptions of the types of accommodation available and some of the characters to be found living on the margins of city life.

If you have your heart set on a book about Paris, there is a section of books just inside the front door about the wonderfully romantic city of light.  My purchase from this section was a copy of Forever Paris: 25 Walks in the Footsteps of Chanel, Hemingway, Picasso, and More.  I plan to use it to help plan my next visit to Paris and Shakespeare and Company.

Great Adventure Books

A few days ago my son called me from the bookstore and was asking if I knew of any good adventure books – fiction or non-fiction.  I made a couple of suggestions, but was driving and really drew a blank.  This post is an attempt to answer his question properly!  I will include books I have read and some suggestions I have not read, but intend to read.

Jon Krakauer’s books will probably top just about any list of adventure books.  Into the Wild is a book about a young man who went to Alaska and walked into the wild.  His book Into Thin Air recounts a terrible tragedy on Mt. Everest.  Either of these would be a great choice.

NPR’s fantasic book section has a great article entitled “Carthage to Cario: 3 Books to Complete the Journey.”  The first book of the three listed is Taxi by Khaled Alkhamissi.  I think my son would love this, since he has actually endured a taxi ride in Cairo.  I was with him and it is an adventure to say the least.  Leo Africanus is also listed in the article and seems to be appropriate for those looking for an historical account of adventure.  The novel is based on the account of a 16th century traveller.

There is a book on my to-read list by Jason Goodwin that seems a promising adventure book.  On Foot to the Golden Horn: A Walk to Istanbul recounts the author’s breathtaking journey with two companions through Eastern Europe from the dikes and marshes of Poland’s Baltic coast across to the Golden Horn in Istanbul.

Simon Winchester ‘s book The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze & Back in Chinese Time is another book I wish I had thought of and recommended when my son called.  It is on my reading list, as I have enjoyed other Simon Winchester books and hope to have time to read all of his writing!  Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire seems to be another must read adventure story.

How to Travel the World for Free by Michael Wigge came out in March of this year and sounds both interesting and helpful!  Wigge traveled 25,000 miles—from Berlin to Antarctica—without any money. This travel diary evidently “combines adventure with humor and contains surprising revelations about when money is really needed—and when it’s not. A must-read for every travel and adventure fan!”

Michael Woods’ travel programs on PBS are very enjoyable, so I can only imagine the books are better.  The Story of India and In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great: A Journey from Greece to Asia would probably top my list of his many books to read.

Finally, there is always Ernest Hemingway.  I hope this list helps those of you looking for a great mental getaway now that everyone’s summer is over.  Leave a comment and add to this list – more is certainly better.  I’m sure to have forgotten an important addition to a list of great adventure books…